A core principle of journalism is to get it right, and if you make a significant factual error (whether through a brain cramp, sloppy research or even a faulty source) it should be corrected as soon as possible.
Reviewing the past year of about 500 errors, some should have been obvious, like the recipe for lemon ginger honey cake that forgot the honey. Oops.
In another, an article about Canada Pension Plan premiums incorrectly said the maximum amount in 2022, if the recipient retired at the age of 65, was $15,023 a month. (We wish!) In fact, that is the annual maximum. As one reader said, that should have been a red flag.
Many readers noted a photo caption for a ceremony to honour members of the 1972 Summit Series team. It incorrectly identified one man as John Ferguson when he is Serge Savard.
While editors probably should have caught these, they catch hundreds, perhaps thousands, more before publication, and some are simply very difficult to spot.
Fortunately, many readers of The Globe and Mail are experts in certain fields and are happy to share their knowledge. I am always grateful to hear what they believe is wrong through either an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or the link on every online article asking readers to “report an error.”
Those experts noticed errors ranging from the accidental inversion of photos of two birds – misidentifying the male northern cardinal and the grey catbird – to incorrect preferred share symbols to matters of science and engineering.
One engineer wrote in asking staff to pay more attention to physics in a story about EVs. He noted that while most of us are used to volume and flow with gasoline, electricity is different. His explanation was thorough, and fortunately the reporter understood.
Some errors are only caught by the reporter or the source. In a report about the effects of weather, a reporter misheard someone saying “humid air” and instead wrote “human error.” That was quickly fixed.
The spelling of names and titles is the most common error, followed by numbers – especially dollar amounts, such as the confusion between millions and billions.
Not everything is updated. A minor typo that doesn’t change the meaning of a sentence or a passing reference to something happening in the 19th century when the writer meant the early 1900s, for example, may be left.
And not all points readers see as errors are wrong. A recent story about the number of citizens in Qatar correctly said there were about 300,000. A reader said no, the population of Qatar is about three million. The reader was correct – but so was the article. A small percentage of the people in the country are actually citizens. It’s a good reminder to be as specific as you can when you use a search engine to find a fact.
And I often hear from readers who disagree with a columnist’s interpretation or opinion. These are best dealt with as letters to the editor or online comments.
I’ve read more than 5,000 e-mails from readers in the past 12 months regarding errors, story ideas, serious and sometimes legal complaints, some praise and many questions.
A frequent question is why The Globe hasn’t covered a certain subject, but more often than not it has, so I forward the reader multiple links to stories on the subject.
The number of inquiries and complaints was a little less this year than during the height of the pandemic and included a higher number of angry readers. In the previous year, the dominant message on COVID-19 was to thank Globe staff for the strong reporting and to ask for more information on the number of cases. This year, the COVID-19 focus has included more complaints, with a number of anti-mandate messages (especially regarding the “freedom convoy” coverage) using words such as “morons,” “fake news” and much worse.
Nonetheless, I read them all and investigate questions of errors. With concerns about misinformation and outright lies spreading, it’s important to stay true to that principle of factual reporting. If you have a question, idea or complaint, please either note it on the “report an error” button online or e-mail me at email@example.com.